Obama’s Energy Policy in Review

By | November 8, 2012 at 7:07 am | No comments

Photo by ProgressOhio via flickr

Throughout the campaign, Obama touted his “all of the above” energy policy. He claimed that he supported coal and oil, even though the administration put strict air pollution regulations in place. Similarly, he supported the natural gas hydraulic fracturing boom for the last four years, while he subsidized wind power. Voters are left wondering, “What kind of energy policy can we expect during the next four years?”

Earlier this month, the House Committee of Oversight and Government Reform generated a report cataloguing President Obama’s energy policy during his first term. Ultimately, they delivered bad news for the fossil fuel industry and surprisingly good news for proponents of renewable energy. Let’s break it down:


1. The EPA now restricts oil and natural gas production through permitting requirements through the Underground Injection Control program in an effort to protect underground sources of drinking water. (The most controversial piece of this regulation is the redefining of diesel fuels to include hydraulic fracturing fluids, so that this process will not slip through a regulatory loophole.)

2. The EPA requires hydraulic fracturing operations to install reduced emission completion technology to reduce methane emissions on-site.

3. In May 2012, the EPA proposed new regulations on hydraulic fracturing sites located on public lands – specifically through the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of the Interior.


1. Contrary to his campaign speeches, under President Obama, there has been a reduction in oil drilling on public lands. This is due to a decrease in leases and permits issued.

2. President Obama famously vetoed the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which prevents the transport of tar sand oil from Canada south to the Gulf of Mexico. (This also stifles oil production in North Dakota’s Bakken formation. North Dakota now has the second highest oil producing state in the nation.)


1. President Obama attempted to make coal economically inviable by increasing operation costs through cap-an-trade regulations. This legislation was never approved by Congress.

2. According to the House Committee on Oversight and Government, the EPA now has the ability, “under the Clean Water Act, to “veto” a permit after the permit has been submitted to the Corps, but before the Corps approves it.” This change in regulation shifts power from the state level to the federal government.

3. Since 2009, the EPA has been able to utilize an “enhanced review” process to control the number of permits given to mining projects, thus slowing down the extraction of coal.

The reaction of fear and frustration on the part of the Committee is telling. Throughout the report, the authors insinuated that these policies – proposed and enacted – would be the death of the fossil fuel industry. This makes me wonder if some of the hard-line environmentalists (including myself) have not given the Obama administration its due credit with curbing the environmental and health impacts of the fossil fuel industry. That is not to say, however, that they cannot do better. It is up to the Green movement to continue putting pressure on the President, moving our nation and the world towards a more sustainable future.

You can find links the actual report here.


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